Shore jigging for success

Shore jigging will open up a whole new range of options to the angler with the patience to learn and the desire to master this incredible technique.

Most anglers like to keep up with the times, and eagerly follow new trends and improvements in tackle design, whether this means thinner and stronger lines, lighter rod blanks, sharper hooks or smoother and more powerful reels. Nowhere is this desire to stay abreast of new developments more evident, however, than amongst lure anglers.

Literally every month new lures enter the market, most are variations on tried and tested designs, but every so often a completely new and revolutionary style of lure appears on the radar and makes serious waves. For me personally, the most exciting and effective evolution in lure design in the past decade is undoubtedly the emergence of slow pitch and micro jigs. Not only do these lures cast a mile, but they are extremely versatile and open up a host of species previously thought to be almost uncatchable on lures.

What is Shore Jigging?

Although the technique of ‘jigging’ for fish – casting or dropping a metal lure down and retrieving it with short up-and-down strokes of the rod tip – has been around for decades, it was not until around 2010 that the technique started to really evolve. It was a group of Japanese anglers – long known for their scientific approach to catching highly pressurised fish through tackle evolution – who started experimenting with lure designs and matching rods and line to develop an offshore technique that allowed them to get relatively small lures down deep and work them back up through the water column in an erratic, slow fashion – far slower than for example vertical jigging which many of us are familiar with. The lures were made of metal and fairly wide and flat, to allow them to increase suspension time in the water and fall slowly to entice strikes.

The result was a lure that stays in the strike zone longer, and can be lifted and allowed to flutter down enticingly to elicit bites from predatory fish. The slow flutter mimics an injured baitfish, and in fact most strikes on slow jigs occur when the lure is falling after the rod tip is lifted and dropped again. Over time, the technique evolved further and many shore-based anglers started experiencing the benefits of these small but far-casting lures that stay in the strike zone longer.

Two main types of shore jigging are practiced – ‘slow’ jigging using wider and flatter lures for less active and reef fish, and standard shore jigging using narrower and more aerodynamic lures for more active and pelagic species.

Tackle

What makes slow pitch jigging different from many other lure applications, is that in order to be successful the angler needs to consider not just what he or she ties onto the end of the line, but the entire outfit that is used. This is a style of fishing that encompasses the right rod, the right reel, the right line and the right lure in a balanced and symbiotic package specifically designed for this technique.

Let’s start with rods. A good shore jigging rod needs to have a relatively fast action (where the rod only bends in the last third or quarter) and a soft tip, with a lot of backbone for pulling big fish out of deep water. The softer tip allows for a sensitive and responsive rod that can feel every twitch and flutter of the lure as it makes its way through the water column – an important consideration and one that greatly increases strike rates. I have two outfits specifically geared for this technique, one for light tackle and estuary applications, and one heavier outfit for shore-based and surf casting. While a lot of rods will get the job done, I strongly urge anyone keen to get into shore jigging to invest in the very best rod possible, as it is the most crucial piece of equipment in the jigging arsenal. Leading brands are not surprisingly Japanese and include Major Craft, the Evolv Shore Gun series and the Zenaq range of shore jigging rods. Shimano and Assassin also make some good rods designed for shore jigging. For estuaries and light shore-based applications, the Major Craft Crostage series is hard to beat. Designed specifically for this application, these rods are light, strong and have just the right amount of ‘give’ in the tip to allow for extremely sensitive and subtle movements that impart the desired action to the lure. For heavier applications, the Major Craft N-One and X-Ride series are fantastic, and I also use a 10ft Shimano Lesath which, while not specifically designed only for shore jigging, has the perfect amount of give in the tip and enough backbone to get the job done.

Spinning reels are the only real option when casting jigs from shore, unlike jigging from a boat where high-speed multiplier reels are effective when matched with the right rod. I use a 2500 Shimano Stradic or a 3000 Shimano Stella FE on my lighter outfit, and a 5000 Shimano Sustain on my bigger outfit when fishing from the beach and a slightly bigger reel – the 6000 Sustain or Saragosas work well – when fishing deeper water and around reefs and rocks. The key is a fairly high retrieve ratio – a minimum of 5:1 is needed for this technique because even though you are often retrieving slowly, you want your lure to cover water with every retrieve of the handle.

Line is an important element when setting up your shore jigging outfit. Monofilament line is not well suited to this application. The thin diameter and superior strength-to-thickness ratio of braid makes this an obvious choice, with 8-strand braid being ideal when fishing from sandy beaches and in estuaries, and 4-strand being preferable in areas with broken reef and snags due to its better abrasion resistance. The best brands I have discovered include the Major Craft Dangan range, the Gosen range and some of the higher-end Daiwa braids. A fluorocarbon leader is attached to the braid and the general rule here is to go as light as the terrain allows – heavy leaders will impact the action of the jig as it rises and falls.

Jigs

While jigs come in many sizes and shapes, the two main designs the shore angler needs to have in the tackle box are the traditional ‘slow pitch’ jigs – wider and generally flat on one side and ideal for slow retrieval and subtle movements of the rod tip – as well as the ‘micro’ style jigs which are narrower and more aerodynamic for faster, more spoon-like retrieve options. Recent years have seen almost all major tackle manufacturers jump on the jigging bandwagon. The Storm Gomoku range, Shimano’s Coltsniper series and the Blu series of jigs are all decent options, but for me the undisputed king of them all is the Major Craft Jigpara series of slow and micro jigs. Made of high-quality materials and available in a wide range of colours and sizes, the Jigparas are fish-catching machines and will often elicit a bite when even the freshest bait is not working. My favourite colour is probably the zebra glow, although the newer ‘live series’ range has some patterns that are so realistic that you almost feel as if you are fishing with live bait. Starting at a tiny 5g all the way up to 100g and more, I find that 10g – 20g is the right range for estuary and flat-water fishing and 30g – 50g is ideal for surf and deeper water applications. One needs to take into account water depth, clarity, target species, current and prevalent baitfish when choosing the right jig for the day.

Major Craft rods and the Jigparas and Dangan braid range are available through local distributors www.outdoors365.co.za as well as in most major tackle stores.

Techniques & Species to be Targeted

Imparting the right action to your jig takes some practice and involves a lot of trial and error until you find your sweet spot. For lighter applications and slow pitch jigs, a lift and fall technique similar to how one fishes a bucktail is very effective, with smooth but fairly short and sharp twitches of the rod designed to impart an enticing fall and drop action that works well for bottom species and slower predators like kob and grunter. For the narrower, faster sinking micro jigs, a series of faster and more erratic twitches elicits strikes, and this is a good option when targeting quicker fish like shad, Natal snoek, Garrick and kingfish.

When fishing off the beach, look for working water such as waves breaking on a bank and cast your jig onto the bank, allowing it to sink to the bottom before beginning your retrieve. A huge plus about using slow jigs especially is that they stay in the strike zone longer due to their flutter action and ability to be fished slowly, unlike for example a spoon or a paddletail.

In terms of species that can be targeted on jigs, the list is almost endless. All predatory fish will eat them, but the real advantage of these lures is that many fish that are not traditionally seen as viable targets for lure anglers are also susceptible to the irresistible action of the jigs, both from shore and when dropping them down onto reefs from a boat. These include blacktail/dassies, hottentot, grunter, bronze bream, red roman, silvers, panga, jacopever, red steenbras, slingers, dageraad, stumpnose and so many more. It is truly mindblowing how many species will eat a jig.

There is a growing pool of anglers here in SA who are discovering these deadly new lures and honing their technique to catch more fish, more often. While it does involve a bit of a learning curve, an investment in the right tackle and a willingness to experiment, shore jigging will open up a whole new range of options to the angler with the patience to learn and the desire to master this incredible technique. On a final note, please fish for the future and release fish that are slow growing, under pressure and on the orange or red list. It is up to us as recreational anglers to set the right example.

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